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Visiting Vivienne Westwood's World's End: Shopping Back In Time

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Dame Vivienne Westwood is celebrated for designing unique and elegant British fashions, but she got her start creating iconic rock and roll streetwear for a little shop on London's Kings Road. The store, initially run with her then romantic and business partner, the late Malcolm McLaren, was initially called Let It Rock and sold Fifties-style Teddy Boy clothing. Over the years, the store went through various name and style incarnations such as Seditionaries and Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die. Its most famous manifestation, however, was as SEX. SEX sold bondage-inspired clothing and the band The Sex Pistols got their name, their clothing and their start there.

Westwood still operates the shop, but it's now called World's End. World's End is not a typical Westwood boutique. Instead of carrying her latest Red Label, Gold Label, Man and Anglomania collections, the shop carries rare one offs made from scrap materials, and reissues of iconic Westwood designs from days of yore. Many of these items can only be found at World's End or in their original incarnation in museum fashion exhibitions. We recently made pilgrimage to the legendary London shop.

As mentioned, the shop is located on Kings Road, but it's fairly far west of the Sloane Square tube station, so fans won't just stumble upon it while wandering around that street's main shopping area. But even though it's out of the way, a visit to the store is well worth the trek. When we arrived there recently, we were thrilled to see that the legendary World's End giant clock, with its hands circling backwards, (taking us back in time) still hangs outside on the storefront, above the door.

When people visit the Louvre, most are surprised to see how small the Mona Lisa is. We felt that way about World's End. The shop is miniscule. Lilliputian. Probably less than 25' by 10'. It holds only a few racks of clothing, some shelves and one jewelry display case. It seems far too small to have been ground zero of the punk-inspired social, cultural and fashion revolutions, the impacts of which, are still being felt today. Our first thought upon entering was, "If the four Sex Pistols were hanging out here with Vivienne and Malcom, there'd be no room for anyone else."

The store is dingy and its floor is sloped. It's easy to imagine a young Chrissie Hynde, back in the late Seventies, clerking behind the register. Today's sale assistants are dressed head to toe in Westwood's edgier attire—including headbands and badges. One initially struck us as as having a bit of an attitude, just like we'd imagine Chrissie might have had. But once she realized that we're big Westwood fans—she became very friendly, even mentioning that Adam Ant and some of the old SEX crew, still shop there.

The store's stock is amazing, full of designs we'd previously only seen in museum exhibits. Shoppers can buy reissues of iconic Westwood pieces like the Rocking Horse shoes and boots, Mountain hats, Pirate boots and hats, and bondage pants, along with a small selection of more current jewelry, buttons, purses, T-shirts, dresses and separates for both sexes.

Prices aren't cheap, but tend to run less than items in her other stores. From the Pirates Collection, a hat was sale priced at £170, and a printed top, featuring the pattern worn by Bow Wow Wow in the "I Want Candy" video, found a new home with us back in New York, in exchange for £150.

· World's End [Official Site]

World's End

430 Kings Road, London, UK